A proposed bill would allow police to demand information and ID from anyone they deem suspicious and detain and question them for up to two hours.
A Kentucky Republican lawmaker is proposing a controversial bill that would allow police to question anyone they "reasonably" believe has committed or may soon commit a crime and detain them for up to two hours.
SB 89, filed last week by state Sen. Stephen Meredith (R), would change state law to let any "peace officer" in a public place demand the name, address, date of birth, and government-issue ID from anyone they reasonably deem "has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime."
If the person does not provide the requested information and an explanation for their actions, the officer could detain, question, and investigate them for as long as two hours without officially recording any of the incident.
Meredith did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the bill, but told the Lexington Herald-Leader, "If a man acts suspicious, then why wouldn’t you want to know what his name is?"
"I can’t imagine any legitimate reason in the world why a person would refuse to give their name and photo identification to a police officer if they were asked," he told the outlet.
While many states have laws permitting brief stops by cops and stop-and-frisk, civil rights advocates are raising concerns about the constitutionality of this particular bill and the disparate impact it could have on minority groups.
"The whole section of the bill on detention — they can call it whatever they want, but Supreme Court case law is pretty clear that an arrest is not determined by whether you call it an arrest, it’s determined by the restraint you place on someone’s liberty,” Aaron Tucek, legal fellow with the ACLU of Kentucky, told the Herald-Leader. "If you put someone in the back of a police car or if you take them down to the police station or if you otherwise refuse to let them go their own way, that’s an arrest, and in our country, you cannot do that without probable cause."
Rebecca DiLoreto of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers told the outlet that the proposed bill could easily be abused, especially in cases where black people are deemed "suspicious" on no basis other than their race.
“"The idea that we can detain people because we find them to be suspicious and we think they might commit a crime, that crosses a dangerous line," she said. "Now, unfortunately, it has been known to happen. Sometimes it’s in a mostly white community where someone spots a black person walking down the street and they get suspicious and call police."
This bill is one of a raft of conservative proposals being pushed by the Republican majority in the state legislature as Gov. Andy Beshear (D) begins his administration. GOP lawmakers have already filed bills that would ban undocumented students — even those protected by DACA — from public colleges and universities and would make it harder to vote by requiring photo identification.
UPDATE: According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, in a floor speech on Tuesday, state Sen. Stephen Meredith (R) withdrew his earlier proposed bill allowing police officers to detain and question anyone they suspected might commit a crime. Meredith said that the bill's language was imperfect but insisted there was a need for it.
The state senator attributed his decision to pull the bill to social media backlash, which he called "painful."
"It’s a modern day version of the Salem witch trials," he claimed. He said he had received messages accusing him of racism, some calling him "an old, wrinkled white guy."
The backlash "would make the devil cringe," he lamented before complaining of a lack of civility in the country.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.